Four Steps for Making a Decision

Four Steps for Making a Decision
“Something needs to change, but what?” Does that sound familiar? Especially about your job? I have a friend who is in this situation right now. She works for a big company, has a good position, a nice salary, reasonable co-workers, and the office is close to home – everything seems to be perfect, except for one thing: She hates her job!

The problem is that she hates her job, and she doesn’t know what she should do to fix it. She could:

  • Stay in the same company and move to a different position.
  • Stay in the same position and move to a different company or a different location.
  • Change her career field and start something completely different, perhaps her own business.

As you can imagine, each answer has its own risks. What if she makes less money? What if she has to work more hours and has less time with her family? What if she has to move and doesn’t like the new location? What if she makes the change and still doesn’t like her new job?

There are A LOT of questions that she needs to answer! Luckily, there is a process with only a few steps that makes it much easier to answer such questions and greatly increase the chances that the answers will be the right ones for you. However, even though the steps are simple, they are neither fast nor easy to go through. If you put in the time to complete the process, you will be surprised how easy it will be to make decisions (both personal and professional). The steps are:

Step 1. Establish your values. Values are the things that have the most meaning for you in life. Things that you cannot live without, and things that make you happy. Start by writing a list of everything that comes to mind, but then narrow it down to three. Be honest with yourself. 

Examples of values: health, family, friends, education, career, financial stability, freedom, time, development, travel, home … 

Step 2. Prioritize your values. After you identify your three most important values, you may feel like all three of them are equally important to you. However, it is critical to determine which value is the most important to you, which is second, and which is third. 

Step 3. Identify the character traits that you value. What are the character traits that you appreciate in people and want to develop in yourself? Make a list and choose 4-7 main character traits that are the most important for you. The traits that will describe you as a person or a person who you want to be. Even if you have not developed these traits in yourself as much as you would like to, you know that you would like to have these traits. 

Examples: honestly, kindness, accountability, mindfulness, leadership, confidence, hard-working, humbleness, loyalty, unselfishness, bravery, empathy…

Step 4. Describe the reason for and give examples of each value and character trait. Why is each value or trait important for you? What do they mean for you? A lot of people understand the same words differently. When we write things down, it helps us better understand our own values, priorities, and character traits. Be specific, write examples, names, and actions. Make sure that you put your heart and mind into each word. 


  • If one of your values is health, write what being healthy means to you (both physically and emotionally). Write what you will do to stay healthy and live out this value every day.
  • If one of your values is family, write the names of the people who are part of your family and how you are going to value your time with them.
  • If one of your values is financial stability, write what level of income helps you feel financially stable.

Steps 1 and 2 are the answers to the WHAT questions in your life. Steps 3 and 4 are the answers to the HOW questions in your life.

After my friend did this exercise and determined what was important to her, she knew what she wanted to do. She decided to stay in the company, get a professional certification, and work towards a top management position. She will be doing it with respect, dedication, and curiosity. Interestingly enough, by going through this process with respect to her career, she also made some important decisions in her personal life. Whether or not she should move to a different state, what arguments to have and not have with her spouse, and even whether or not they want to have a child now. By establishing her values and priorities, she knows what she needs to do to achieve those things.

So, what are YOUR values, priorities, and character traits? Follow these simple steps to figure them out and you will be able to more easily answers the questions you face. It is THAT simple, even if it is not always easy.